It was hopeful news to Beulah and fellow Mercer County residents when Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., and Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., met with Mercer County and city officials April 8 at the Beulah City Hall to get a firsthand report on flood and snow damage.
The North Dakota Century Code requires that before a city may own or lease from others a natural gas pipeline distribution system, “the proposition to so lease must be placed on the ballot of a municipal election.” Thus, Hazen residents will vote in a special election Tuesday, June 9 to decide if they want the city to enter into an agreement that would allow them to lease or own a natural gas distribution system.
Curt and Sandra Melland, Hazen, walked away without injury after their personal aircraft flipped at the end of the Mercer County Regional Airport Runway just east of Hazen Saturday, March 28. The crash in itself was rattling, C. Melland said – but what really left an imprint was the response of the local emergency crews.
With recent flooding along the Missouri River in the Bismarck and Mandan areas, the U.S. Crops of Engineers made history March 24 when they shut down the flow of water coming out of the Garrison Dam and into the Missouri River, eliminating the flow to zero cubic feet per second. The stopped flow of water had major effects on the southern part of the state, and when battling massive ice dams along the Missouri, this stop caused huge benefits to flood victims and communities. With no water coming into the Missouri, local residents closer to the dam were feeling the negative impacts. Due to the zero output from the dam, two major power plants near Stanton were forced to go offline and shut down operations on Thursday. The Basin Electric Power Cooperative's Leland Olds Station and Great River Energy plants both shut down beginning at 8:45 a.m. when Basin Electric took their first unit offline. GRE shut down their first unit at 11 a.m. and their second boiler unit was taken offline at noon. Due to different intake levels for the two units at Basin Electric, they were able to keep their unit two operational until 2:30 p.m. Thursday. With their facility completely offline, Basin Electric spokesman Darryl Hill said, "This is the first time that we have ever had to take both units offline due to the situation with water levels." When asked if the plant ever planned to be in this situation with low water levels causing both units to go offline, Hill said, "I don't think anybody did. This is the first time in the history of the dam that they have ever shut the dam completely off." GRE spokesmen Lyndon Anderson also said this is the first time their plant has had to shut down due to low water levels. In both plants, employees continued to work throughout the shut down. "There will continue to be a staff at the station because it will be a relatively short time period," Anderson said. "During the time of shutdown they will do minor maintenance work, cleaning of certain components. There is always maintenance at the plant." "When you have a situation like this, you do have the opportunity to do some maintenance work. There is a list of things that we need to do, and since it is a fairly short-term duration, we will get that done while the plant is offline," Hill said. The duration of the plants' shutdown depends entirely on the decisions made at the Garrison Dam. On Thursday, the dam was reopened to 3,000 cubic feet per second, but Anderson said that the plant would need more than 3,000 cfs to go back online. Hill said that the river level would have to rise at least 2 feet before the units could be restarted. By Friday afternoon the dam had increased their outtake to 6,000 cfs. Once the water is released, Anderson and Hill said that it will take approximately 10-12 hours to feel the effects downstream, and raise the water levels to the necessary point for both plants. "It's going to take a good 10 hours from the time that they release enough water, until we can even think about getting back up," Hill said.
For months prior to the Knife River going over it's banks last week, Hazen City Commissioners and planners have been discussing possibilities and ideas of how to handle a flood similar to Mercer County's flood of 1997. Now that the damage is done with major flooding in Beulah last week and to a lesser extent in Hazen, some of those same officials met last Friday to discuss further changes needed, if any, to the city's flood plan. Though most of the events discussed were part of a specific pattern the 2009 flood created, officials suggest a quick melt as early as this weekend could create another possible flood threat. Hazen City Commissioner Mike Peterson said there are still at least two known ice jams on the Knife River near Hazen and a lot of snowmelt still to come down the Antelope Creek drainage from the northwest, which could affect portions of the north half of town. Adding that to the 4 inches from Monday's snowstorm, fellow Hazen City Commissioner Ken Link addressed the issue of added moisture content within the snow accumulation. He said in 1997 there was a record of 1.8 inches of moisture in the snow. In 2009, recordings showed 5.7 inches of moisture in the snow.
On the morning of March 24, 2009, the Knife River was higher than it had ever been. Edwin Oster could tell by the post of his mailbox. "It was just about halfway up the post," Oster said Wednesday morning. "There's still a chunk of ice hanging on it." To back up Oster's observation, United States Geological Survey personnel measured the Knife River at 31.4 feet Tuesday morning in Hazen - over 4 feet higher than the river's measured crest in Hazen on March 23, 1997. The measurement might have been skewed by ice jams, however, as Hazen emergency workers measured the river's crest at 27.26 - still above the mark set in 1997.
The people have spoken - in Hazen, anyway. The Hazen City Commission reviewed results of a survey Monday evening that gauged residents' feelings on the city establishing a municipal natural gas utility, as well as if the resident would consider signing up for natural gas service. For the city of Hazen to get natural gas, the utility must be owned by the city. With 303 surveys returned, 54 percent responded yes, they would be in favor of the city establishing a municipal natural gas utility. Though when asked if they would consider such a service in their own home, 58 percent said no. The most common reason cited for not using the service was that they are already using electric heat in their home. Although the results were not the 60 percent approval the commission previously said would convince Major Pipelines L.L.C., of Grand Rapids, Mich., to build - Hazen City Planner Steve Frovarp said the company representatives still seemed optimistic. "They reported they had financing all lined up to go before survey results were in," Frovarp said. "They think that they might be able to convince more once they're here." In fact, Frovarp said Major Pipelines representatives said that they secured $12-$15 million for the project in the last few weeks. Construction and installation costs were tentatively noted to be $2.5 million for Hazen and Beulah each, and another $5 million to get pipeline up and running - which would be split between the two communities.
If your home flooded in 1997 you should be prepared to have water issues again this year. "In a moderate melt the homes that had trouble in '97 are going to experience problems again," Mercer County Emergency Manager Richard Sorenson said.